Classic Tom: Abstain from incomplete sex education
April 22, 2007 3 Comments
Originally published in the Augustana Observer, vol. 104, issue #12, January 28, 2005
I thought I’d talk about abortion this week, due to the recent debate, Augustana Right to Life’s screening of “The Silent Scream” and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That, and I haven’t gotten enough letters about being controversial lately, and I was beginning to miss them.
I recently realized that, for all I know about philosophy and fetal development, I really didn’t know how an abortion was actually performed. I watched “The Silent Scream,” but I’m not foolish enough to think that many medical practices are the same now as they were in the mid-’80s. Besides, Planned Parenthood debunked that film (link). I recognize their bias, but their facts check out better than the movie’s do.
Planned Parenthood should know about abortion procedure, especially if the anti-abortion groups’ “4,000 per day” figure is accurate. ARTL really needs to find a more up-to-date movie. If their position is really based on logical philosophy and not religion, then they should be able to support it with a film that’s not so obsolete and sensationalistic.
But I’m not talking about abortion. I’m talking about gambling. Sort of.
Imagine that someone gave you more money than you know what to do with. They dropped you off in the biggest, brightest casino in Las Vegas and told you some of the basic rules of the games. Then they told you “okay, now don’t play anything,” and left. What do you do?
Most of you would play, and most of you would lose.
That, boys and girls, is abstinence-only sex education.
It’s clear that Sex-Ed in this country needs an overhaul, but that’s not the right direction. Adolescents have sex, whether or not it’s a good idea. People who know the ins and outs of sex (pun very much intended) will be a great deal safer regarding diseases, contraceptives, and even what to do in the bedroom than people who are firing blindly.
Abstinence-only sex education mixes a tiny amount of factual information with an almost equal amount of misinformation.
Touching your genitals can get you pregnant? HIV is spread by tears?
Educated people should not consider “abortion increases one’s risk for breast cancer” to be a remotely rational statement. Honestly, if it were ovarian cancer or uterine cancer it might seem plausible, but it doesn’t take a doctor to see how little sense that makes.
The other problems with abstinence-only sex-ed are the parts it ignores. Adolescents are in the process of developing individual adult identities. This means making their own decisions, and thus their own mistakes.
Part of teenage rebellion is doing what your parents don’t want you to, because it means you’re making a decision on your own.
Telling teens “don’t do that because I said so, and I know what’s best” only encourages them to try it. Telling them “I don’t think you should, and here’s why, but I’ll leave the actual decision up to you” forces them to make choices that will have serious impacts on their lives (you know, like adults do).
All that aside, what happens to the abstinence-only kids when they grow up? Chances are, unless they become clergy or eunuchs, everyone will have sex at some point. Putting on a wedding ring doesn’t magically teach you how to do the deed, and if you’ve engaged in total abstinence, there’ll be quite a few surprises on the honeymoon.
If there’s a woman with an instruction manual on her vulva, I have yet to meet her. Teaching teens about sex will make sure that more people will have a decent time on their wedding night.
Teaching teens about the dangers of intercourse and about how contraceptives can protect them will only help everyone in the long run. You can still push abstinence, but far more people will stay chaste if it’s their own decision, rather than what grown-ups told them to do.
Teens who only know abstinence are like gun owners who don’t know how to aim. If they decide to fire, they will be a lot more dangerous. Without education, a condom is just a fancy rubber band. But with a little knowledge and some spermicide, it becomes a 98 percent effective tadpole catcher.
So wait, education plus contraceptives equals fewer unwanted pregnancies, which equals fewer abortions. Hmmm…seems to me that, if ARTL really wanted to stop abortions, they’d stop sending anti-birth control bookmarks and “Condom Sense” pamphlets, and start distributing condoms and real information.
It looks like there is less logic and less reason in the Right to Life philosophy than meets the eye.